Friday, February 3, 2023

Planning Commission Nixes Baptist Memorial Noise Plan

A rendering shows the proposal for fixing noise problems for nine condo owners near Belk Boulevard construction.
A rendering shows the proposal for fixing noise problems for nine condo owners near Belk Boulevard construction. Created by design firm A2H.

The Oxford Planning Commission insists that the new Baptist Memorial Hospital needs a better plan for buffering noise from nearby residents who live in a block of nine condos.
If the hospital were to build the wooden fence it has suggested, the city of Oxford may be stuck paying for maintenance and replacing it in the near future. The commission voted unanimously not to accept the hospital plan, although the ultimate decision on a site plan is up to the Board of Aldermen.
The commission also unanimously approved a second motion, urging the city engineering and planning staff to “bring about prompt resolution to the noise problems for condo residents.”
According to the condo association’s vice president and president, gas service has been cut off without notice and no work has begun on noise abatement. They are also unhappy with the aesthetics of a new retaining wall.
Belk Boulevard is being constructed right behind the nine condos, to connect Old Taylor Road and Lamar Avenue and service the new 250-bed hospital.
The hospital proposed placing sound-proof storm windows on the second floor of each condo and constructing an eight-foot wooden fence that would act as a sound barrier, directly behind the condos. A retaining wall will stand several feet beyond the fence at a lower level, with a sidewalk, trees and the roadway just beyond it.
A wooden fence is already located behind condos affected by noise from the construction of Belk Boulevard. This fence would be replaced by a noise-mitigating fence.
A wooden fence is already located behind condos affected by noise from the construction of Belk Boulevard. This fence would be replaced by a noise-mitigating fence. Photo from acoustic noise study completed by Oxford Acoustics.

With wooden fencing, regular maintenance will be needed every couple of years, and the fence probably has a 10-year life span. The fence and related costs will be turned over to the city once its construction is completed by the hospital.
Commission members were not pleased with the report from city engineer Bart Robinson on the hospital’s proposal.
“They have taken one of the least expensive ways out,” Robinson said, a choice that could cost the city money in the long run.
The hospital has met the technical requirements to mitigate noise, but according to commission member John Bradley, “The hospital has not come close to meeting the substantive recommendation of the sound barrier study.”
Its initial cost is about $35,000 to $40,000, Robinson said, whereas a masonry block wall covered with brick is about $270,000 and an FDA-recommended wooden wall would run about $106,000.
The hospital asked the commission to recognize that its noise-mitigation plans satisfy Condition D of a previous site plan approval, but commission members were unimpressed by the hospital’s efforts to satisfy residents’ noise concerns.
Hospital representatives did agree to route all truck traffic on Lamar Avenue, one step in avoiding extra noise for residents.
Oxford Acoustics completed an acoustics and noise investigation in November 2013, finding in part that “The projected impact of the traffic noise from the new Belk Boulevard on the adjacent residences has been found to be unacceptable.”
In that report, Oxford Acoustics listed several possible materials for constructing the sound barrier fencing. The listing for wood states: “Inexpensive but requires maintenance against rot and warping. Has a limited lifespan, which may be appropriate for a short term solution. Best used in tandem with a guardrail or jersey barrier to protect the wall against vehicles. Thin footprint.”
Several appropriate alternatives, including masonry block, brick or precast concrete panels, are lower maintenance and generally have a longer lifespan than wooden fencing.
Right now, no road is located behind the condos. Each of the condos is estimated at a worth of $200,000 to $250,000. The reasonable cost listed per residence for noise mitigation by the acoustics study is $30,000, with a total cost of $270,000.
Gretchen Stone is HottyToddy.com associate editor. Gretchen can be contacted about this story at Gretchen.Stone@HottyToddy.com

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